• Thursday, April 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

$1.6bn needed annually to fight drug-resistant TB -WHO, Global Fund

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With the drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis (TB) still a global health crisis and the number of persons receiving multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) treatment globally remaining low, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Global Fund identified a funding of US$ 1.6 billion annually is needed for the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis in 118 low and middle income countries, including Nigeria.

On top of an estimated US$ 3.2 billion that could be provided by the countries themselves, filling this gap would enable the treatment for 17 million TB and multidrug-resistant TB patients and save six million lives between 2014 to 2016.

As the epidemic continues to spread, drug-resistant TB becomes increasingly hard to tackle with the treatment been too long, too toxic and too costly. The drugs, according to BusinessDay findings, cost at least $4,000 just to treat one person.

Margaret Chan, director general, WHO and Mark Dybul, executive director, Global Fund, stated that the only way to carry out urgent work of identifying all new cases of tuberculosis, while simultaneously making progress against the most serious existing cases, would be to mobilise significant funding from domestic sources and international donors.

With an overwhelming majority of international funding for tuberculosis coming through the Global Fund, they stressed the need for effective efforts to raise money in 2013.

“We are treading water at a time when we desperately need to scale up our response to MDR-TB. We have gained a lot of ground in TB control through international collaboration, but it can easily be lost if we do not act now,” Chan said.

Lending his view, Dybul said that “It is critical that we raise the funding that is urgently needed to control this disease. If we don’t act now, our costs could skyrocket. It is invest now or pay forever.”

Globally, MSF projects are seeing unprecedented numbers of people with MDR-TB with drug resistance found not only among patients who have previously failed TB treatment but also in patients newly diagnosed with TB; a sign that MDR-TB is being transmitted.

Left untreated, the infectious disease is lethal, but treatment today puts people through two years of excruciating side effects, including deafness and constant nausea, with painful daily injections for up to eight months.

While the Millennium Development Goal of turning around the TB epidemic has already been met, the two percent decline in the number of people falling ill with TB annually remains too slow. Two regions-Africa and Europe, are not on track to achieve the global target of halving the TB death rate between 1990 and 2015.

In 2011, 1.4 million people died due to TB, with the greatest per capita death rate in Africa. Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) presents a major threat, with an estimated 630,000 people ill worldwide with this form of TB today.

WHO worked with the Global Fund and the Stop TB Partnership to support selected high TB burden countries in reviewing their priorities for the next three years and estimating available funding and gaps. Estimates have been made for 118 countries eligible for Global Fund support.

Of the US$ 1.6 billion gap in donor financing, almost 60 percent is for WHO’s African region. In the 118 countries, there are four priority areas for domestic and international investment-to drive down deaths, alleviate suffering, cut transmission and contain spread of drug resistance.

ALEXANDER CHIEJINA